Why shouldn’t we consider modern languages as subject matter?

Isabelle Wolfe
Language Teacher, International School Aberdeen


As a French native and a teacher, I have heard the following sentence many times: “ I learnt French at school for 3 years and I can’t speak”. This gap between school-based language classes and actually learning how to speak is something that unfortunately is somewhat accepted. Why then is there so much discrepancy between language learning in the classroom and proficiency and communicative ability in real life?


I believe that the root of this dichotomy lies in the fact that very often languages are taught as subject matter and should not.


Indeed, language acquisition is different from learning other subjects. We have to treat language as a different kind of subject matter and therefore it should be treated differently than other subjects. History, science, maths and English are content courses whereby knowledge is taught, demonstrated and ultimately assessed and tested.


However, treating languages as subject matter can have very detrimental consequences for the learners. The growing trend of teaching languages in a comprehensible input setting stems from the view that language acquisition should be regarded as a unique subject.


1. Misled focus of the language acquisition course


By considering language as subject matter, the aim of the course is more focused on grades rather than looking at the students proficiency and ability. Subject matter tests focus more on measuring what students cannot do whereas language acquisition assessments should focus on the progress the students are making and proficiency outcomes. The motivation for the learners becomes intrinsic such as pleasing the parents or even the teacher rather than extrinsic which is for example acquiring the language in order to communicate. Dr Liam Printer wrote extensively on this aspect in his paper on motivation which can be found in the bibliography.


2. Consolidation of the myth about language learning rather than acquiring the language


Treating language as a subject matter perpetuates the myth that language learning is done by teaching, practicing, memorising and testing. Learning about the language should not be confused with acquiring the language. There needs to be a shift in seeing students acquire the language in order to to use it instead of learning about the language.


3. Language is not taught in a meaningful way


The proliferation of expensive textbooks and other resources, assessment packs, workbooks are driven by language acquisition seen as subject matter. When one stops treating language as subject matter, then we start questioning the existence of such textbooks. This is why we see the shift in teaching grammar more and more in the context of other meaningful activities rather than following the structure of a textbook and if for example the past is needed for a beginner student, then there are no constraints to introduce it at that stage, even briefly.


By regarding language acquisition as subject matter, we incur the risk of not achieving the main goal which is to communicate in a meaningful way. Communicative activities should be given priority and scripted dialogues or scenarios that students do not relate to should be avoided as they do not encourage proficiency. Consequently, language acquisition lessons should be planned backwards with the communicative goal first and what the assessment will consist of explained foremost.


Grant Boulanger, an advocate of comprehensible input, conducted a study in 2012 in which he compared students who have been taught traditionally and students who have followed a non-textbook approach. They tested a total of 356 students. 121 students were in a beginners class following a non-subject matter approach and 235 students were in classes taught with what can be described as traditional following methods adhering to a textbook and grammatical scope and sequence. The results showed that students who did not follow the traditional method based on content had a higher level of attainment than those who followed a textbook-based approach. The details of the data can be found here.


These results demonstrate that adjusting the curriculum to be more about the students rather than the page of the book they’re on has a positive impact on students’ achievements. Proficiency-based assessments can give us more data than many content-specific assessments throughout the year.


4. Educational inequity is encouraged


Treating language acquisition as subject matter fosters the idea that some students should learn language X and others language Y. Therefore, the myth that such language is more appropriate for high achievers and other languages are more accessible to the other students is encouraged by treating language acquisition based on subject matter and the attainment of grades.


These are some of the reasons why language acquisition classes should not be considered subject matter. However, it is important to also make sure that the element of “preciousness” does not get attached to the subject. Languages are specialist and unique courses but not special in the sense that not every single student can be successful and have access to them.


Finally, and surprisingly enough, one might think that administrators would be the main actors to initiate such a change in this mindset and not consider language acquisition as subject matter. However, more often than not, teachers are the actors who need to operate this shift. As teachers, most of us have been trained as subject matter teachers. We might even have learnt the language we are now teaching in a subject matter format. However, as educators, we need to implement this shift which is not always an easy process as teacher beliefs very often hinder this growth mindset.


What do you think about the points raised in this article? We’d love to hear your feedback.




Vanpatten, b., 2021. while we’re on the topic.


Grant Boulanger. 2021. A Nail in the Coffin Part 2 – CI Increases ACHIEVEMENT. [online]
(A Nail in the Coffin Part 2 – CI Increases ACHIEVEMENT, 2021)


ResearchGate. 2021. (PDF) Student perceptions on the motivational pull of Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS): a self-determination theory perspective.




Isabelle Wolfe is the language subject leader at the International School of Aberdeen.  She teaches French in Middle and High school as well as the French Mother Tongue programme to our French native students. Prior to teaching at ISA, Isabelle taught in England, Australia, and Egypt.

It’s All About Relationships

Promotional article from The MARIO Framework

Graeme Scott
Executive Chairperson, The MARIO Framework


We’ve had Baby Boomers, then Generation X. We’ve had Millennials, Gen Y, Gen Y-not, and now Generation Alpha. Many apparent differences have been identified between each of these generations, some of them have substance while others will be consigned to the fiction sections of our libraries. We often seek to identify the differences between each generation, but what about the elements that unite us? I was born in 1964, which makes me a Baby Boomer…but only just.  I was born on 29th of February to be exact, which was a source of endless fun and elementary mathematics for the ten-year-old children I taught, but it is now used by colleagues to poke fun at my real age. “Wow, even your real age divided by four is getting big now!” The most important things in my life are not restricted to Baby Boomers but are common across all generations.  For example, the relationships we all develop throughout our lives are so precious to all generations and all cultures. This became most apparent during Covid-19 when many of us were restricted to an online relationship with those we hold most dear.  For those of us living overseas, our exciting international lives were significantly impacted by the challenges we faced when attempting to travel to see loved ones.  Many of us are still facing these difficulties and some, like myself, decided that this might be an appropriate time to return to home base to be within touching distance of family, at least for a while.


Early Childhood

From the very beginning, the bonding between baby and parents is foundational and critical in the projection for their future mental health and resilience. Anecdotally, we are familiar with testimony from parents who experience an unusually powerful sensation at the moment of their child’s birth. They speak of being willing to sacrifice anything for this tiny human that just entered the world. Life is changed forever at that second, and for the child, these relationships are the first of many that will shape their trajectory and their life.  From early games such as peek-a-boo, to the security-seeking grab of mum or dad’s leg when faced with something or someone strange, the bond between child and parent is critical.  Starting nursery or kindergarten for the first time and leaving parents can therefore be traumatic for some children.  The shift from being the sole focus of attention at home, to being one child amongst many, where care and communication is divided multiple ways, is understandably difficult to manage for many children.  Fortunately, early childhood practitioners are highly skilled and understand the importance of regular one-to-one conversations with every child in their class.


Relationships at School

As we pass the early childhood stage and head to school, relationships are again instrumental in our flourishing. Having moved around the world several times with children in tow, I know how important relationships are to my kids.  Our internationally mobile students are constantly making friendships, only to see them reduced to an online version of themselves when either they or their friends move on to different locations around the globe.  For new students, what actually happens in the classroom can be less of a concern to them as it is a relatively controlled environment.  However, what happens at break time and what happens in the lunch hall can be moments of real stress and anxiety.  Who will play with me?  Will anyone sit with me to eat?  Who can I tag along with, and will I be viewed as a burden?  These are real questions children wrestle with as they strive to fit into their new learning environment.


I was one of those students who, even at the age of 15, spent the last part of the lesson before lunch strategising about where I would sit in the cafeteria, what I might say and to whom.  My favourite teachers and those I learned most from were always those that invested in a relationship with me that was deeper than the norm. Outside of lessons, they spent time with me talking about sport, home life and television (yes they did exist then!). Sadly, the inverse is also true. Now at the age of 57, the subject areas I still struggle in correspond with those teachers who didn’t seem particularly bothered whether I turned up or not.  Relationships are built on trust and can also be fractured by a perceived loss of trust.


Research demonstrates that one-to-one conversations strengthen students’ cognitive processing and facilitate behavioral modelling.  They also support the fostering of a growth mindset, provide real-world meaning and contextualisation, and build a positive student-teacher relationship.  However, the challenge of constructing such conversations on a regular basis with all students is not to be underestimated.




At The MARIO Framework, we recognise the importance of building trusting relationships on a deeper level with students. We do this through powerfully constructed one-to-one learning conversations. Even a five-to-seven-minute conversation, carefully designed, can be a critical catalyst for learning and wellbeing.


MARIO is an acronym for Measurable; Ambitious; Research-informed; Innovative; One-to-One learning centered.  Although the framework is appropriate for all students and provides them with the tools they need to become self-directed learners, we currently work predominantly with students who have diverse learning needs. Our approach has had startling results; to be precise, an effect size of 0.91 on student learning, measured through a 6-year retrospective study.


Everything we do at MARIO is based on a huge database of research and evidence because we believe that with the limited time we have to make a difference, we need to ensure every minute counts.  Our MARIO educators have seen the approach work extremely well with students in a wide range of schools, but to have our principles backed by a veritable mountain of research is extremely reassuring. It allows us to build further relationships of trust, this time with our stakeholders.


There are three elements to the MARIO Framework.  Free research summaries are provided – we invite you to head over to our website and sign up for ‘The MARIO Memos.’ We also offer cutting-edge professional development through a range of flexible courses, the gold standard being the MARIO Educator Certification. This highly successful and robust course, already completed by teachers in almost 20 countries, can be taken with a cohort over a period of eleven weeks or can be accessed asynchronously, pacing out one’s learning over as long as a year. The third piece in the MARIO suite is an innovative and unique software program that connects learning support teachers, mainstream subject or class teachers, parents, and school leaders with the student in the very center of these supportive relationships.


A Unique Software Solution

The ‘MARIO for ME’ software will not only enable students to connect with those teachers who can help them, it will also take care of compliance and accreditation needs, whilst promoting school-wide professional growth and innovation. The software makes the IEP process more meaningful, while reducing the paperwork burden for educators. Schools will gain valuable information about what is happening in students’ classes and will be able to quickly and easily monitor and share their achievements and progress in academic and social-emotional learning.  It will connect students to all those who are in a position to support them, and is therefore an extension of the relationships that matter most.


Educators, whatever generation they belong to, find commonality in a desire to develop relationships of trust within learning communities, and in particular, with our students. The vision of The MARIO Framework states, ‘Empowering ALL students to flourish as self-directed learners.’ However, before our students can be empowered, we need to connect with them in a meaningful way, with real empathy.  We then work with students to identify a focus for powerful 1:1 learning conversations, before by activating them leveraging the highest-impact teaching strategies.  Only then can they be truly empowered.  The MARIO Framework supports students in moving purposefully through these stages, on their journey towards self-direction.  Learn more about how you and your school can be part of the MARIO movement.  Please get in touch with me or check our website https://marioframework.com/.





Graeme Scott has 37 years of experience in education, with 26 of these in leadership positions in Hong Kong, Dubai, The Hague and Bangkok. He is also an accomplished keynote speaker and an educational consultant. Graeme’s areas of expertise include a deep understanding of the learning process, school leadership and the development of organisational culture.

Graeme has been Head of an outstanding UK state school and has also worked as Principal at the International School of The Hague, in the Netherlands for seven years, followed by six years at the International School Bangkok. His most recent role was as Founding Director of Fairgreen International School, the Middle East’s first fully sustainable IB school. His roles now include Executive Chairman of The Mario Framework, an organisation that supports students with specific learning needs in becoming self-directed learners.

Struggles and Hurdles: Ending the Silence

Eleni Armaou, Student Oriented Services (SOS) and Additional Learning Needs (ALN) Coordinator
Metropolitan School of Frankfurt

We all struggle at some point in our lives, either for professional or personal, family, academic or other reasons. The pandemic has exacerbated the need to be resilient, to stand up after you fall, but such things are easier said than done! So what is the first, initial step we need to take? Do we just stay silent and everything will be OK? Do we need to speak up? If we speak up and voice our concerns, will we face the fear of stigma? Most psychology professionals, counsellors and psy-educational specialists in the areas of Learning Support, Psychological Support and Personal Coaching name the first crucial step: Name your feelings, put them into words, categorise them, analyse them, as by doing this, although you are far from finding a solution, you are on the first square of gaining control. When you know something, when you are aware of the hurdles and struggles and can identify them, here it is: you have moved to square two!

NAMI.ORG has a variety of helpful resources for students, families, and adults who are trying to tell the difference between what expected behaviors are and what might be the signs of a mental illness isn’t always easy.

There’s no easy test that can let someone know if there is mental illness or if actions and thoughts might be typical behaviors of a person or the result of a physical illness. Each illness has its own symptoms, but common signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents can include the following:

● Excessive worrying or fear

● Feeling excessively sad or low

● Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning

● Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria

● Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger

● Avoiding friends and social activities

● Difficulties understanding or relating to other people

● Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy

● Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite

● Changes in sex drive

● Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don’t exist in objective reality)

● Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (”lack of insight” or anosognosia)

● Overuse of substances like alcohol or drugs

● Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)

● Thinking about suicide

● Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress

● An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance Mental health conditions can also begin to develop in young children. Because they’re still learning how to identify and talk about thoughts and emotions, their most obvious symptoms are behavioral. Symptoms in children may include the following:

● Changes in school performance

● Excessive worry or anxiety, for instance fighting to avoid bed or school

● Hyperactive behaviour

● Frequent nightmares

● Frequent disobedience or aggression

● Frequent temper tantrums

Where To Get Help

Don’t be afraid to reach out if you or someone you know needs help. Learning all you can about mental health is an important first step.

Reach out to your health insurance, primary care doctor or state/county mental health authority for more resources.

Resource: Mental Illness: Warning Signs and Symptoms

Most Importantly, reach out to your ECIS school Support teams, your pastoral officers, your Learning Support specialists and your School Counsellors in order to voice your concerns.

Our SEN/LS SIG is happy to help and you can participate in our webinars on mental health support and mindfulness! Our Next SEN/LS SIG event:  Click here to learn more


What do you think about the points raised in this post? We’d love to have your thoughts below.





Eleni Armaou studied Psychology, Pedagogy and Philosophy ( major in Educational  Psychology) and holds a MA in Special Educational Needs from the University of Leeds, in the UK. She has worked in IB Schools in Istanbul, Stuttgart, and Frankfurt and is now the SOS and ALN Coordinator at the Metropolitan School of Frankfurt.

Eleni is passionate about AI, Robotics, Space Travel, Quantum Physics as well as Human Psychology, Inclusive Education, Leadership and Management Studies, Negotiation Skills, and Conflict Resolution.

She is a Member of ECIS SEN/Learning Support SIG. Visit the website here.

Personal Website

Modern-day boarding

By Stonehill International School, Bangalore


Boarding school can teach children the essential skills they need to succeed in life.

Education has been modernised through technology, innovative infrastructure and progressive pedagogy. In this context, boarding schools too have changed dramatically over the last few years. Gone are the traditional dormitory days or regimental routines. Today, boarding schools are friendly and warm, with modern facilities for both studying and living. The learning never stops in a boarding school environment. Lessons go beyond the walls of the classroom to include social skills and life skills like independence, self-confidence, acceptance of differences and more. Top boarding schools like Stonehill International School in Bangalore, aim for the holistic development of the student rather than just purely focusing on academics.


Stonehill is a modern-day and boarding school, with a contemporary and adaptive programme, where students are supported, engaged, challenged, and respected as individuals. The boarding staff at Stonehill are house parents and dedicated teachers who provide a high standard of field and academic support.


The following are five skills that boarding life inculcates in your child:


1. Ability to build friendships


Stonehill Boarding is a diverse environment where children from different backgrounds meet and interact. They form great friendships with their peers, get guidance and academic support from each other. It is an opportunity for children of different ages and cultures to connect, creating a bond for life. When a community of your peers surround you, coping with the ebb and flow of life is easier. Glen Johnson, Head of Boarding at Stonehill International School, with more than 30 years of experience of having worked in various boarding schools across India, says, “I have seen the positive effect boarding life at Stonehill has on students. They experience less stress and frustration in this environment. I have also seen improvement in student grades, an increase in motivation and a decline in behavioural issues.”




2. Boarders learn to be independent and responsible

Children become more independent within a broader community environment, building up confidence in their ability to manage their schoolwork, stay healthy and thrive in the ‘real world’. In a contemporary boarding environment like Stonehill Boarding, students learn to be responsible for themselves. They learn time management skills and become self-reliant and independent.



3. Cultivating a lifelong desire to learn through academics and outdoor opportunities

Weekends are a time to unwind and students can choose from the myriad extracurricular activities. Glen Johnson, Head of Stonehill Boarding, says, “At Stonehill Boarding, keeping in mind the IB philosophy, we initiate and plan regular outdoor activities. These activities encourage children to ask questions and find answers through research so they cultivate a lifelong desire to learn.”

Additionally, the School has a multi-purpose sports hall, basketball courts, a swimming pool, volleyball, tennis and badminton courts, a football and cricket field and horse riding facilities.

A crucial part of the educational journey is creating an environment to facilitate it. At    Stonehill Boarding, the availability of school amenities for use at all times allows students to prepare for their future.



4. Boarders develop strong work ethics

The boarding at Stonehill International School has a well-deserved reputation for excellence that encourages disciplined work and study habits. This is attributed to the outstanding professionalism and care of the house parents. They are committed to motivating the students to fulfil their academic and personal potential.

Through supervised study sessions, accessible offices, and open-door policies, students gain close access to readily available support from the non-resident tutors. With teachers as role-models, it is easier for students to become invested in their work.

Stonehill Boarders often find great friendships in their house parents who provide continuous support to them. Not only do they guide them on managing their studies, but also with social dynamics. They forge a healthy foundational support system, creating a home away from home!



5. Boarding school promotes acceptance and values diversity



Stonehill International Boarding attracts students from all over the world. They host a diverse range of international and domestic students who share meals, rooms, and classes – fostering a close bond that transcends geographical and cultural differences. As students share personal stories, cultural insights, and new experiences with each other, they learn to see beyond categories of difference – a fundamental lesson they take with them for years to come.

Stonehill International School is an International Baccalaureate (IB) Authorised World School, accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). The School is a member of the Australian Boarding Schools Association (ABSA) an organization that promotes the interests of boarding schools worldwide, facilitating the professional development of staff and advancing excellent practice among schools.

The boarding houses at Stonehill are comfortable and homelike, with modern facilities and contemporary design. Boarding can never replace home, but Stonehill Boarding offers the next best thing – a home away from home.

Artificial Intelligence in Education: The Big Picture



The big picture – Ai evolution in context

AI didn’t come into existence out of the blue. It will also not disappear all of a sudden. It is the natural evolution of progress – it is the next stage in the industrial revolution.


The first Industrial Revolution happened between 1750-1870 (120 years). The most notable invention during the period was the steam engine. Main characteristics : mechanization, birth of industry, agriculture to be replaced as main economic activity.


The second Industrial Revolution took place between 1870-1950 (80 years). The most notable invention was the automobile. Main characteristics : basic technological advancements – electricity (gas/oil), steel, chemicals, telegraph / telephone.


The 3rd Industrial Revolution happened between 1950-2000 (50 years). The most notable invention during the period was the computers. Main characteristics : more technological advancements – industrial robots, electronics, telecommunications, nuclear energy.


The 4th Industrial Revolution takes place as we speak. It started in 2000. Nobody knows how long it will last, but the cycles of each stage are shorter and shorter. 120-80-50 years… Most likely this stage will last less than 50 years. The most notable invention during the current period is the internet. Main characteristics : emphasis on digitization – powerful computers, virtual reality.


The 5th Industrial Revolution will follow naturally. The most notable invention will be Artificial Intelligence. AI/ML will become widespread and a part of everyday life on so many levels, we can’t even imagine today. The only question is when will this new era start, if it hasn’t started already…



AI is a new phase in progress – probably the next industrial revolution


Industrial robots meant progress by increasing productivity in factories – blue collar workers, performing easy, repetitive tasks were replaced by machines / robots. AI technology means progress by replacing more complex jobs which require human capabilities such as : understanding, reasoning, planning, communication, perception. But this does not mean humans are in danger! This means humans can now focus on more creative tasks which can’t be performed by computers/robots/AI.


AI needs data to work. Data can be acquired by feeding it into the AI system (file import), by integrating the AI with other software or by the AI system itself when it interacts with the world (e.g. visual perception or speech recognition). Once the AI has data, it can perform various intelligent actions mentioned above (planning, perception, etc). AI systems assess the available information and then take the most sensible action to achieve a stated goal (e.g. planning a trip from San Francisco to New York).


Progress means that inevitably the jobs which require only the 5 capabilities mentioned above will be lost to automation. Are schools still preparing students for soon-to-be-obsolete jobs ? As mentioned in the first article, later down the road in our series of articles on AI in education we will focus on how students can prevent preparing themselves for jobs which are very likely to be lost to automation by the time they will retire from the workforce. This will reduce the need for professional reconversion later in life and will avoid various emotional situations associated with unemployment.



This article is provided by HEDKY-AI – Linking courses to careers. More than 90% of students using HEDKY-AI choose the right career – according to their talents. HEDKY-AI monitors student skill development from age 3 to graduation and beyond. Using HEDKY-AI’s “Skill passport”, teachers, schools and parents can see very early in a student’s life towards which type of career they are heading to, according to their choices and results in curricular courses and extracurricular activities. If they head towards a job which is likely to be lost by automation, parents would most likely want to know this as early as possible in order to change their career goal.


To learn more about HEDKY-AI, please visit hedky.fr or get in touch with us by email at hedky(at)hedky.fr.


Incorporating Student Voice in the Classroom

Chrissy Talbot
General Education Teacher

Providing students with a voice is an important tool in creating an engaging classroom environment. As an elementary teacher, I’ve noticed that when my students feel that their own voice is valued they are often more willing to take academic risks. Below I’ve listed three practical ways you can provide even your youngest students with an opportunity to have a voice in their own education.


1) Morning Meetings & Entrance Tickets:

One way to provide students with a voice is by giving them a platform to express themselves. This can come in multiple forms. You can set up a morning meeting where students have the opportunity to discuss things they are feeling or events happening outside of school. A safe space for students to engage in honest conversation should never be underestimated. Or, if you want something less time-consuming, you can create Google Forms or entrance tickets that ask students to suggest topics for class discussion or their thoughts and opinions on the curriculum. Of course, you can modify these ideas to meet your specific grade level. Starting your day off with an opportunity for students to have a voice sets a tone that their opinions and thoughts matter in your classroom. They are valued.


2) Choice in Projects: 

Student voice can also come in the form of choice. This might mean giving students the opportunity to express what they have learned through different mediums. Would they rather make a diorama of an ocean habitat or create a video complete with sound effects and narration? Sometimes it can be hard as the teacher to release some control to our students but by doing so, we are showing our students that we trust them and that we accept them as individuals who may not always learn the same way. You cannot have student voice without student choice.


3) Student Surveys:

Lastly, you can promote student voice simply by asking for it. Give students an opportunity to drive your instruction and tell you how they learn best. Student surveys at the beginning of the year are helpful to get an understanding of how our students learn. We can then decide if we need more group projects or technology or visuals in the way we deliver instruction. But the surveys shouldn’t stop in the fall. We need to continue to ask our students for feedback. Would students like to see more videos or do more hands-on experiments? Assessments give us a lot of information about how much a student has learned but they don’t give us insight on the student’s learning experience. I believe learning experiences should count for something because, after all, aren’t we trying to foster a love of learning in our students? I think the best way to do this is to give the students a voice continuously in the way we deliver our instruction and the way we assess our students.


These are just a few strategies you can employ in your classroom to help lift up your students’ voices and make them feel heard.  Sometimes it’s easy to overlook or forget about the importance of this work but it’s so important for building long-term relationships with our students. We owe it to our students to show them that their thoughts are valued.


To learn more about Social-Emotional Learning and access additional resources to support a SEL environment, click here.


This article was originally published by Savvas: https://blog.savvas.com/incorporating-student-voice-in-the-classroom


What do you think about the points raised in this article? We’d love to hear your feedback.



Chrissy Talbot

“My name is Chrissy and I am a creative, hard-working, and passionate teacher. I’ve been teaching second grade for the past four years on Long Island, New York. I’m currently the general education teacher in an inclusive classroom environment, and I LOVE it! I received my BA in Elementary Education from Stonehill College in Massachusetts and later earned my Masters in TESOL from Touro College in New York. When I’m not lesson planning or making anchor charts for my kiddos, I am reading books on my couch, planning my latest travel adventure, or spending time with my friends and family.”

Pygmalion and Quantum Theory: When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change

Eleni Armaou, Student Oriented Services (SOS) and Additional Learning Needs (ALN) Coordinator
Metropolitan School of Frankfurt

 Image Source


It is an axiom in Human Psychology, a known fact, albeit not easily perceptible, an unwritten law, which you study the minute you step your feet into a university amphitheatre of a Psychology faculty: your perception informs the way you look at things, defines their meaning and subsequently shapes your actions or reactions.


As an educator I found self-observation enlightening and I started observing myself: my mood, my underlying assumptions, my fears and hopes and how they can fundamentally change my teaching practice during the instructional moment. If I am happy, I see happiness everywhere, if I am hopeful, I recognise it in the eyes of students, if I strive for change and innovation, they will follow suit. It is as if everyone feeds off each other’s mood, and yet this tiny grain of truth is usually overlooked, especially in moments of crisis. How does this manifestation of  rule become universal?


On a larger scale, this of the universe, it has long been ( much longer than we think) theorised that the atoms do not possibly have an infinite and given state but rather are in a constant status of Superposition, therefore creating infinite versions of themselves and subsequently of reality. Multiple versions of reality means, essentially, that there is a multiverse.

And of course, the observer’s application of observation, an act, changes the observed object. This theory echoes the theory of Shroedinger’s cat ( the cat is both alive and dead in the box) as well as similar theories in Psychology, Humanities and of course Arts.


Moving away from subatomic and macroscopic systems, and researching in the field of Educational Studies, we first encounter aspects of the above mentioned theory in the famous book by R. Rosenthal Pygmalion in the Classroom (1968). In his introduction, Rosenthal makes a special reference to Bernard Shaw’s (1913) play by providing a fragment of the protagonist’s Eliza Doolittle monologue:


You see, really and truly, apart from the things anyone can pick up ( the dressing and the proper way of speaking, and so on), the difference between a lady and a girl is not how she behaves but how she is treated. I  shall always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins, because he always treats me as a flower girl, and always will; but I know that I can be a lady to you, because you always treat me as a lady, and always will.


In a series of experiments which Rosenthal mentions in his book, the mechanism of self-fulfilling prophecy is apparent and in play with all factors in human relationships, but particularly, in the dual relationship of learner-educators and that, if our expectation is that a learner of a given intelligence ( term is outdated, this comes from a 1968 book) will not respond creatively to a task which confronts him, and especially if we make this expectation known to the learner, the probability is that he will respond creatively is very much reduced.


This is a huge life ( and teaching ) lesson for teachers: what you think is what you will create.



  1. Rosenthal, R., Jacobson, L. Pygmalion in the classroom. Urban Rev 3, 16–20 (1968).
  2. https://www.newscientist.com/definition/quantum-physics/


What do you think about the points raised in this article? We’d love to have your thoughts below.





Eleni Armaou studied Psychology, Pedagogy and Philosophy ( major in Educational  Psychology) and holds a MA in Special Educational Needs from the University of Leeds, in the UK. She has worked in IB Schools in Istanbul, Stuttgart, and Frankfurt and is now the SOS and ALN Coordinator at the Metropolitan School of Frankfurt.

Eleni is passionate about AI, Robotics, Space Travel, Quantum Physics as well as Human Psychology, Inclusive Education, Leadership and Management Studies, Negotiation Skills, and Conflict Resolution.

She is a Member of ECIS SEN/Learning Support SIG.

Website: https://eleniarmaou.wixsite.com/inclusiveducation


Embracing democratic dissent in a data-driven age

Stephen Chatelier, Mark Harrison and Elke Van dermijnsbrugge



We teach in a pre-service teacher programme that prepares students for a teaching career in international schools. In one of the courses, we discuss models of teacher appraisal and teacher effectiveness, their purposes, and how different schools approach them. We ask whether or not student performance data should be part of these processes. During the discussion, it is inevitable that one of the students will argue that data must be used because, ultimately, the most important concern of a school is the learning of students.


During our time as schoolteachers and in our ongoing conversations with colleagues, we have heard this same argument, in different forms, many times over.


How dare you – it’s all about student learning!

These days, we often hear that the student – and student learning – are more important than anything else, and should be the yardstick for all that happens in schools. The problem with this is that it seems impossible to argue against. Who in their right mind is going to say “the students aren’t really the most important” or “hmm, I don’t think student learning is really at the centre of what we do as a school”?


The view that student learning is the aim of schooling might seem obvious, but has been challenged, perhaps most notably by the academic Gert Biesta who argues that education is a much broader enterprise. While the claim that student learning is all that matters is itself problematic, it is also used all too often as a “shut down” to alternative voices.


If you’ve ever tried questioning the latest initiative focusing on wellbeing, resilience, growth mindset, or “soft skills”, you’ve probably experienced “the shutdown”! If you’re thinking of being that person, good luck!


The ‘research shows’ argument

Perhaps you’ve been in a meeting about increasing the quantity of reporting. The school leadership is arguing that parents should get more regular feedback, as well as more detailed end-of-term reports. As concerns about the increased administrative requirements for teachers are voiced, the reply comes: “research shows that formative feedback and home-school partnerships are key to student improvement, and surely that is our primary aim?”


The argument here is not only that student learning is the only thing that matters, but that ‘the research’ undeniably supports the particular initiative being proposed. In this sense, ‘the research’ is often quoted in a vague and ‘handwaving’ manner to justify an initiative. After all, who can argue with ‘the research’?


So, just like the ‘student learning’ strategy, the ‘research says’ declaration is too often used to quash dissenting voices.


Democratic education

The dissenting voice, however, is central to ensuring a democratic education.


Put another way, the data-driven, evidence-based discourses in schools risk undermining the various forms of education that prioritise students’ responses to the world around them, inquiry and the construction of knowledge, and engaged citizenship, all elements of a broader vision of education than one which simply focuses on ‘learning.’


When teachers become focused on the numbers and the data, they are more likely to engage in practices that primarily focus on that which can be measured. That is, teachers are more likely to do the equivalent of ‘teaching to the test’. As a result, we start to value what we measure instead of measuring what we value (Biesta).


Given that many international schools claim to provide exactly the kind of education that guides students in becoming responsible members of a global society, it is important that we consider the implications of focusing on data and numbers.


Dissenting voices

In fact, if we really believe that the best education for our students is that which ‘draws out and opens up’ rather than ‘narrows in and closes down’, then we ought to be more, not less, sceptical about educational agendas which flatten and standardise practices.


And we ought to be willing to embrace dissenting voices from teachers as well as students.


But while we make the argument for allowing dissent, it is important to note that this is not the same as mere complaint. Dissent, it can be argued, is more closely aligned to democratic education, not because it allows the community to simply say whatever they want, but because it involves giving account for one’s position.


Dissent emerges from genuine concerns – whether philosophical, practical, political or pedagogical – and can, therefore, play an important role not only in critiquing the way things are, but in contributing to different and innovative ideas for education.


Embracing alternative views for education

The start of a new school year is the time in which new initiatives are proposed with energy and enthusiasm. School leaders are often keen to ensure that they push something through, before the grind of the daily and weekly routine sets in. As such, it can be tempting to resist the dissenting voices by invoking ‘the research’ which is, in actual fact, always contestable, or the centrality of student learning.


Managed well, a genuine invitation for dissent is to see any proposal of a new initiative as an educative opportunity itself. It is an opportunity for the community to genuinely inquire into, grapple with, critique and imagine alternatives. It is an opportunity to ask: what does the data actually tell us? What does the research not address? And, are there other factors – outside the data or the research – that perhaps ought, nevertheless, to carry more weight in making a decision?


A school that breeds a culture of genuine engagement with ideas, and leaders who genuinely listen to dissenting voices, model something of the kind of democratic education that so many international schools claim to promote. In embracing this culture within the staff, the effects will be felt across the school, including in the classrooms.


So, next time we are tempted to shut down debate by blithely stating “learning is the most important thing” or “the research says”, perhaps it is worth thinking about what this says about our perspective on the role of education.


Stephen Chatelier, Mark Harrison and Elke Van dermijnsbrugge have all been teachers and leaders in international schools. They now work in the Department of International Education at The Education University of Hong Kong, where they teach and conduct research on critical aspects of international schooling.

Artificial Intelligence in Education

Alex Canariov


Artificial Intelligence (AI) is definitely the buzz word today. It is quite widely spread and it’s included in a variety of software applications which we take for granted.


The Corona pandemic brought software in general to anyone’s attention all over the world. Across many economic sectors, including education, everyone is by now an expert in using virtual meeting software, such as Zoom, MS Teams or Google Meet. This Covid-19 crisis will also accelerate the pace the AI technology is to be introduced in the software we are using daily.


In education in particular, the use of technology proved to be even more vital, as during lockdowns online teaching was the only option to keep on providing education to our children. At the moment, the pandemic seems to be under control as vaccination rates are rising and the summer weather sets in in Europe. Nobody can tell for sure though if this one-in-a-generation crisis is definitely behind us. It might very well be the case that new lockdowns might be again imposed on us once the cold weather returns and numerous new variants of the virus emerge in different corners of the world.


Nevertheless, technology is here to help. It will even take us further and improve our lives as teachers, parents and students. I am talking of course about AI – the next step in how technology is to be used in education.


We are now starting a series of articles on the topic “AI in Education” with the aim to introduce the fascinating world of AI to school staff. Over the course of these articles, we will be covering subjects like AI Trends in Education, AI used as Career Assessment Tool, Types of Jobs AI will / will not take over by 2050 and which Skills will still be relevant in the future and which will become obsolete.


What is AI ?


As we plan to dive into the topic of “AI in Education”, we should first know what AI really is. In fact, it is not very easy to explain, as even AI data scientists have a hard time defining it, but in a nutshell we can say that AI is a computer system designed to simulate the human intellect. It is basically a fancy piece of software which performs various tasks only done by humans until very recently. Some basic examples of AI software are face recognition, text autocorrect or chatbots. AI technology is incorporated in very familiar software applications we use daily, such as web search (Google), digital assistants (Siri, Alexa), all social media news feeds, Google/Apple Maps or in consumer electronics products such as vacuum cleaners (e.g. Roomba). More complex AI examples include manufacturing robots, self-driving cars, virtual travel booking agents or automated financial investing.



The advantage is that now humans do not waste valuable time with boring, time consuming routine tasks and we can focus on more creative tasks, which require human interaction – in our case, teachers and school staff can focus more on education.

This is a unique opportunity to spend our working time creating more meaningful things. The evolution of AI does not mean humans will be out of work and doomed to starve to death. The Hollywood image of machines taking over and raging war against humans is, well, just that – a Hollywood interpretation of various scientific facts, portrayed in such a way to generate box office sales. AI technology currently is very far from being able to behave like Terminator. And I mean very, very far away – as in centuries. We can’t even say for sure at the moment that AI will ever be able to go past the “singularity” moment and become self-aware and start thinking on its own. So, rest assured, AI will not attack you, your children and not even your grand-grand children.


The main “threat” posed by AI is replacing humans in performing various tasks. Yes, some jobs will be lost to automation, but other types of jobs will be created to replace the obsolete ones. This is how progress works.

In education though, people should not worry as the teacher / educator jobs are among the less likely to be lost to automation. Jobs such as accountant, telemarketer or courier are among those most likely to be done by AI by 2050.

We will dive deeper into the automation risk and how can students today avoid them later in our series of articles.


In our next article we will focus on how AI came into existence as a natural next step in evolution in terms of progress and industrial revolution.


This article is provided by HEDKY-AI – Linking courses to careers. More than 90% of students using HEDKY-AI choose the right career – according to their talents. HEDKY-AI monitors student skill development from age 3 to graduation and beyond.


Using HEDKY-AI’s “Skill passport”, teachers, schools and parents can see very early in a student’s life towards which type of career they are heading to, according to their choices and results in curricular courses and extracurricular activities. If they head towards a job which is likely to be lost by automation, parents would most likely want to know this as early as possible in order to change their career goal.


To learn more about HEDKY-AI, please visit hedky.fr or get in touch with us by email at hedky@hedky.fr.






Alex Canariov is a former teacher in the international school system, currently CEO at HEDKY-AI. Alex obtained an MBA degree from Germany’s oldest business school – HHL (Handelshochschule Leipzig) and has been involved in business consulting projects since 2001 and in software projects since 2007.


Promoting a Gender-Inclusive Hiring Process

By members of the Carney, Sandoe & Associates International Schools Practice


At Carney, Sandoe & Associates, we are aware of the role that search agencies play in shaping the overall make-up of school leadership, both within individual schools and across the collective community of schools. In short, we know that who we identify and promote as strong candidates who meet a school’s particular needs matters a great deal.


Given the longstanding gender inequities in school leadership — the bias toward white menhat still holds today — we are committed to identifying and promoting diverse groups of highly qualified candidates for every school leadership position. We also see it as our job to educate all school search committees and governing boards about the qualities a range of candidates bring to the job and about the overall value of diverse leadership within and among schools. At the same time, we understand that it’s essential to focus energy on expanding the pool and pipeline of candidates for these positions in the future. This tripartite process is at the core of every search we conduct.


Recently, it has come to our attention that in the world of international schools — a vibrant, fast-growing area of K-12 education — the percentage of women heads and other top leaders has been particularly low. According to data from the Academy for International School Leadership (AISH), women heads of international schools have only improved slightly — increasing from 27% to 33% over the past ten years. While it’s good to see improvement, we submit that this percentage of growth is unacceptable, especially in a profession with so many extremely talented, highly competent women.


Our Focus on Gender Equity

For every search, the members of our International Schools Practice build a database of candidates and analyze it to ensure that we are interviewing for equitable access to leadership roles. Many times, this means we seek out and nurture talent, offering to review résumés and cover letters in advance, and holding one-on-one coaching sessions.


Separate from retained searches, we uphold our commitment to supporting women in education by hosting our annual Women’s (Re)Institute. First held in person in 2017 and now having completed its second virtual iteration, the (Re)Institute draws hundreds of women together to engage in workshops, one-on-one career advising, cohort groups, panel presentations, and keynotes related to female empowerment, skill building, and overcoming the unique challenges women face working in education. The event includes a range of sessions designed to help women educators develop their skills, make connections, and understand their leadership options and possibilities. Among the sessions this year, for example, were: “A Woman’s Worth: The Art of Negotiation;” “Living with Imposter Syndrome and Biased Workplaces;” “More than Conversations: A Feminist Approach to Equity Work in International Schools;” “Women, EQ, and Leadership;” and “Huddle (verb): To Gather Your Sister Circle.”


Given the low numbers of women leaders in international schools, this year’s (Re)Institute also included a topic we consider of utmost importance: “Ever Consider Leading an International School?” which was led by CS&A consultants Deb Welch and Karen Neitzel and included presenters Robin Appleby, Head of School at American School in London; Madeleine Hewitt, Executive Director of the Near East South Asia Council of Overseas Schools; and Nancy Le Nezet, Head of School at the Swiss International School in Qatar.


Additionally, Carney Sandoe offers implicit and cognitive bias training for search committees at no extra charge. Our consultants work internally with the Carney Sandoe staff as well, helping us to recognize ways our own identities, cultural perspectives, and biases that may be unconsciously serving as blind spots in our work. To further our organizational commitment to antibias work, Carney Sandoe is also covering the cost this summer for consultants to attend (diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) professional development of their choice.


We are engaged in this work across the board because we know it’s the right thing to do and because we know diverse leadership teams in schools function at a higher level that monocultural groups and, thus, serve the faculty, staff, and students best. Research makes it clear, for instance, that diverse teams focus more on facts, process those facts more carefully, and are more innovative (Rock and Grant, HBR, Why Diverse Teams are Smarter). The bottom line is that, by committing to helping create diverse leadership teams, we are not just committing to equity and justice, we are also helping to create better decision-making in school leadership teams, boardrooms, and classrooms.


Toward the aim of an equitable gender balance in school leadership, we’re proud of our record of recent appointments of women to senior administrative and leadership positions. Of those recent placements, 70% of them have occurred since 2018.


Female Appointments from Recent International School Searches



President, 2022


Primary School Principal, 2021


Superintendent, 2018


Director, 2019


Director, 2020


Executive Head of School, 2022


Interim Head of School, 2016


Head of School, 2018


Head of School, 2017

Director of Institutional Equity, 2021


Head of School, 2020


High School Principal, 2018


Executive Director, 2017


Head of School, 2018


Head of School, 2019


Chief Inspection Officer, 2021

Vice Head of Primary, 2021


Head of Upper School, 2016


Director of College Counseling, 2015


Upper School Head, 2021


Head of School, 2021


Deputy Superintendent, 2014

Middle School Principal, 2014

Elementary School Principal, 2020

Deputy Head of School, 2016


Principal, 2018


Superintendent, 2007

Head of School, 2021


Founding Head, 2022


Executive Director, 2013


Middle School Principal, 2019


Director, 2020


General Director, 2017


Montessori Director, 2019


Head of School, 2019


Head of School, 2018


Middle School Principal, 2019


Middle School Principal, 2017


Director, 2019


Director, 2019


An Invitation

At Carney Sandoe, we will continue to highlight the value of diversity in school leadership and promote diversity in the hiring process. In particular, we are dedicated to finding new ways to increase the number of women and other underrepresented groups. In this light, we are constantly encouraging talented candidates to apply for positions of interest, even if they believe it may be a bit of a “stretch.” We also help such candidates establish a connection with a search consultant who can advise them on their suitability for different positions and encourage them to test the waters. Meanwhile, we advise search committees that no candidate will check all the boxes of the desired profile, but that we are adept at identifying areas in which a candidate will be an excellent match for a school. We also advise candidates to work with a variety of search firms, since no single firm does all the searches.


For educators aspiring to leadership positions in international schools, this is a particularly good time to be looking. The number of international schools continues to grow at a remarkable rate and all of these schools are searching for administrators (and teachers) who are native English speakers. For those educators who are our candidates, we encourage you to let search committees know where your strengths and interests lie — so we can better align these strengths and interests with the needs of schools. Mostly, though, we encourage educators aspiring to school leadership to step up, cast your net wide, and believe in yourself. We know from experience that the right position will come.



This article was contributed by Art Charles, John Chandler, Karen Neitzel, and Deb Welch of the International Schools Practice.


As Managing Associate for the International School Practice, Art Charles has done more than 140 senior administrative searches, both in the U.S. and abroad. Prior to coming to CS&A, Art worked in five international schools, most recently as President of International College in Beirut, Lebanon. He also worked as an administrator and teacher at the American College of Sofia, Academia Cotopaxi (Ecuador), The American School in Switzerland, and the American Embassy School (India).




John Chandler is a senior consultant. The majority of his work has been in leadership searches for international schools. He has also led searches for U.S. independent schools and has consulted on governance. He has completed more than 120 searches. After several teaching and admissions roles, John served as Head of School at Pingree School (MA) for 14 years before becoming General Director of the Koç School in Istanbul, Turkey. Following Koç, he served as Head of School of Robert College, the oldest American school outside the U.S., also in Istanbul, for seven years.




Karen Neitzel is a search consultant for the firm’s Head of School, Key Administrator, International Schools, and Catholic Schools Practices. Karen joined CS&A from ‘Iolani School (HI), first serving as Dean of Studies before becoming Associate Head of School. Prior to ‘Iolani, Karen held several leadership roles in the Hood River County School District (OR), including Vice Principal and Principal. She also worked at The Archer School for Girls (CA), where she served as Assistant Head of School, Academic Dean, and Director of Technology.




Deb Welch is a senior consultant for the International Schools Practice. For five years, Deb served as CEO of the Academy for International School Heads (AISH), a leading organization among international schools. Her experience working in independent schools is deep and varied. She was the Director of American School of Doha in Qatar, as well as Director of Curriculum, Assessment, and Professional Development; then Deputy Head of School at International School Bangkok. She also has significant consulting experience, having worked as an independent consultant for various international schools and organizations.